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WASHINGTON — “Gene-silencing pesticides” now under development pose unique risks to surrounding ecosystems and beneficial insects, including bees, according to a new report, released today by Friends of the Earth and Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji. The report summarizes the gaps in research on experimental gene-silencing pesticides and the risks they pose to human health, the environment, and farmers.

Several biotech and agrichemical companies are moving quickly to patent and bring gene-silencing pesticides to market. Corporations including Bayer [OTCMKTS: BAYRY], BASF [OTCMKTS: BASFY], and Syngenta [owned by Sinochem-ChemChina], are using genetic engineering to develop the new pesticide sprays that exploit a cellular process called RNA interference (RNAi), in order to switch off or “silence” genes that are essential for the survival of insects — thus killing them.

The first gene-silencing pesticide spray is slated to be submitted to the U.S. EPA for registration by the end of this year. The product, developed by GreenLight Biosciences, targets the Colorado potato beetle. The spray is designed to be applied to crop leaves. When a beetle eats the contaminated leaves, genetic material enters the... see more